Almost a third of WPP investors have refused to offer their support for Sir Martin Sorrell’s bumper exit package.
Under the terms of his exit contract, Sir Martin, who built the advertising giant from a small wire basket manufacturer to a £20 billion media empire, will receive share bonuses worth up to £20 million.
But shareholders were hesitant to back the remuneration package until further details of Sir Martin’s alleged misconduct came to light.
Chairman Roberto Quarta said the company could not make the whistleblowing report publically available as it would breach data protection rules.
He also explained that WPP has no basis to cancel Sir Martin’s remuneration package because the company has no proof of misconduct.
“The contract required Martin to be treated as having retired unless a definition of gross misconduct would be satisfied, which it could not, and on which the board had clear legal advice,” said Mr Quarta.
Around 17 per cent of shareholders also voted against the reappointment of Mr Quarta over his handling of Sir Martin’s resignation.
Sir Martin resigned in April following a series of claims that he had bullied staff and was seen by two employees entering a sex worker’s premises – allegations he denies.
The media tycoon was allowed to resign under the terms of his contract “at will”. Sir Martin has since launched a new business, S4, which could compete directly with WPP as the contract makes no reference to a “non-compete” clause.
Speaking at the WPP investors’ meeting, Mr Quarta said: “The process that the board followed in response to the allegation against Sir Martin was robust both from a governance and legal perspective. I know that questions remain, but there is simply nothing further we can legally disclose.
“’While we are not able to comment on individual cases or specific allegations, I want to make it clear that at WPP – as in any other workplace – everyone is entitled to be treated with respect.
“Everyone at WPP should feel able to raise concerns and to have them listened to and acted upon as appropriate.
“The board takes this matter very seriously and has asked the new management team to review how our policies are put into practice and where and how we need to make improvements.”